Types of childcare

People who are about to embark on a journey of bringing a newborn into the world, or adopting a child, should spend a considerable amount of time thinking about childcare options. Here we have put together a comprehensive list of different types of childcare, the pros and the cons.

Welcome to the world of childcare! It is a place where decisions need to be made, calculations need to be performed, emotions need to be considered.

Doesn't matter whether you are only starting to think about having a child, are on the last stretch of your pregnancy, expecting the arrival of your adopted child, or enjoying the last days of your parental leave - you will need to spend significant time and resources on deciding the how, who, when, why and, most importantly, how much of childcare.

Below we have put the few main types of childcare with the pros and cons listed. You may end up choosing one of the options, or combining a few, or, even coming up with your own strategy. The most important thing to remember is the strategy you've chosen doesn't have to be a permanent solution. If something is not working out, you could always try alternatives.

  • Day Care Programs. These are approved facility-based programs that take in infants, toddlers and pre-school aged children. They normally run full day - from the morning to early evening. Pricing: depending on which province/city you live in, the price varies from $8.25/day (in Quebec, as their Day Care Programs are regulated) to upwards of $100/day. Locations: typically these facilities are scattered, so you may have to travel some distance away from your work/home to take your child to the centre. Availability: according to statistics, there are only enough spaces in licensed day care homes for 22% of all Canadian children under the age of 4. With that, the cost are high and the waitlists are long. It is recommended to get on a waitlist in a facility that suits your needs long before you will be needing to place your child. Pros: your child will be cared for by a professional caregiver in an environment that is specifically suited for children. Many of the Day Care programs offer early development for children, so they can gain the necessary social and cognitive skills early on. Day Care Centres offer full day care, so you may not need to modify your daily routine as much. Cons: an increasing cost in some cities/provinces. Long waitlists. Limited one-on-one approach. Higher risk of catching flu, cold, other illnesses. Time spent away from home can be tiring and frustrating to some children. Travel time to and from the facility. Subsidy: these programs are accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Group Family Child Care Programs. These programs are offered in private residences. Usually there are 7-10 children with 2 caregivers. These programs are open to kids of any age. The program is regulated if the number of children exceeds 6. Pricing: the pricing is set by the caregiver, but is generally lower than that in the Day Care Programs. Locations: there are many more privately operated Group Family Child Care Programs, so you may be able to find one in your community, thus saving you travel time. Availability: because of a higher number of facilities, there are more available spaces, however, if you are set on a specific location or caregiver, you will need to make sure you apply early on. Pros: your child will be cared for in a familiar home-like environment, so the separation anxiety may not be as severe. Groups are generally smaller than in a Day Care Program, so there is more one-on-one care provided. Many Group Family Child Care Programs offer flexible extended hours and are even operating on the weekends. If you have more than 1 child, you may be able to place them into 1 home, as children of different ages are welcome. Early development of social and cognitive skills. Cons: As in the case of Day Care Program, your child will be exposed to other kids' germs, increasing the likelihood of them getting sick. You may not be able to secure a spot in a Group Family Child Care Program in your area and will have to travel out of the way. Subsidy: these programs are accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Pre-School Programs. These programs offer child care for kids of pre-school age for four or less hours per day. The program is aimed at preparing children for school and kindergarten. They specialize in early educational development. Pricing: Community preschool programs vary in price. Depending on the number of days, the price ranges from $200 to $300 per month. Locations: there are quite a few privately operated and community pre-school programs available, so you may be able to find one in your community, saving you travel time. Availability: as with any program, it is recommended to reserve your spot in advance. Usually you can do so with a deposit. Pros: the program takes development of your child very seriously, so it is a great option for busy parents who are unable to dedicate time to their children's early learning before they join school. Smaller groups allowing for a one-on-one experience. Many locations available, so you could find one close to you. Great for situations where one parent works part-time or from home. Cons: limited hours of care. Not suitable for parents who are both working full time. Subsidy: these programs are accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Approved Family Day Homes. These are typically offered in an individual's private residence where up to 6 children, including kids of the caregiver are looked after for a full day. Kids of any age can participate in these programs. As any Day Home with fewer number of children than 6 does not require to be regulated or licensed, governments of a few provinces offer incentives to those homes that wish to become approved. These homes will offer personalized care, feature healthy and suitable environment, which is assessed regularly by government-hired agencies. Pricing: is set by the caregiver, however it is generally considerably lower than Day Care Facilities or Group Family Child Care Programs. Availability: With government support more and more Approved Family Day Homes are becoming available. As they do not advertise much publicly, we recommend checking your local community bulletin boards to find one. Pros: your child will be cared for in a familiar home-like environment, so the separation anxiety may not be as severe. Groups are very small so there is plenty of one-on-one care provided. Many Day Homes offer flexible extended hours and are even operating on the weekends. If you have more than 1 child, you may be able to place them into 1 home, as children of different ages are welcome. Early development of social and cognitive skills. Cons: As in the case of Day Care Program, your child will be exposed to other kids' germs, increasing the likelihood of them getting sick. You may not be able to secure a spot in an Approved Family Day Home in your area and will have to travel out of the way. Subsidy: these programs are accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Mother's Helper. A person who helps looking after a child and entertain them while a parent is still at home. Usually this would be a junior-high student who is looking to gain some experience for babysitting. Pricing: mother's helpers pricing ranges from free (kids trying to gain experience to be able to offer babysitting services) to a couple of dollars an hour. Availability: check in your community and with parents you know to find interested pre-teens. Pros: great help for parents who are continuing to work from home, so they could concentrate on the work for a couple of hours a day without distractions. Affordable option for "an extra pair of hands and eyes". Cons: at times unreliable, as kids will have other commitments, like school and after-school activities. Not professional, or experienced, so you would not be able to rely on the help 100% and leave home. Subsidy: these programs are generally not accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Babysitter. Someone who looks after your child part-time in your home or in theirs, without supervision. Typically this includes high-school and university students. Pricing:depends on the level of experience of the babysitter and the province/city of residence, but on average is $10-15/hour. Availability: there are a few sites that allow you to search for babysitters who have had background checks and references. Otherwise you may find one by getting references from friends and family and checking your community bulletin boards. Pros: a great last-minute care option. Affordable. Great solution for multiple kids. Cons: may not be readily available for full day due to other commitments (school, other jobs, etc). Finding the perfect candidate may be time-consuming. Lack of social circle and social interaction. Subsidy: these programs are generally not accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Nanny. A professional caregiver who possesses certifications, knowledge and experience in taking care of children of various ages. They will typically look after your child in your home. Sometimes for an extra charge they will help with some housekeeping and cooking tasks. Pricing: higher than those of babysitters, averaging $10-25/hour. Availability: it is recommended to look online on specialized websites or hiring an agency which will source the ideal candidate for your needs. Pros: a professional with often formal education in early child development who is dedicated to providing best one-on-one care to your child. Great solution for parents who work full time and are looking for individual care for their children in the comfort of their own home. Great for families with multiple children. Cons: Lack of social circle and social interaction. Not as cost effective as some other options. May be difficult and overwhelming to find the perfect candidate. Subsidy: these programs are generally not accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Au Pair. A live-in nanny sourced from a different country. Usually they only perform child-care related duties. Pricing: usually you will have to pay an educational stipend + travel expenses and a stipend based on the minimum wage. As you will have to hire an agency to pair you with a perfect candidate, you will also need to cover the agency fees. Availability: you have to look for an agency who will be able to pair you with an ideal candidate. Pros: access to high-quality childcare 24/7 (although, you will need to agree about the number of hours in advance). Ideal for families with multiple children and families where both parents work full time or extended hours. Cons: potential discomfort of boarding a stranger in your home. Potentially may be a wrong fit. Not as cost effective as other options. Subsidy: these programs are generally not accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Relative Care. A family member caring for your child in their or your residence. Pricing: often a relative will agree to perform duties at no charge, but it is recommended to address the issue of compensation (for time and resources) in advance in order to avoid any potential conflicts. Availability: this depends on whether any relatives are retired/work part time and are able to provide comprehensive care to your child. Pros: your relative is likely someone you already trust with the care of your child. Flexibility, low cost, having your child's best interest at heart, cost effectiveness. Cons: this type of care may put strain on your relationship with the relative. You may not feel comfortable addressing your preference when it comes to care for your child due to the personal relationship and/or lack of compensation. Subsidy: these programs are accessible for Child Care Subsidy, based on the province/city of residence.

  • Child-Care Swap. 2 or more families watch each other's children on alternating days. Pricing: heavily depends on the family and the arrangement and is can be negotiated. Availability: you will need to look for friends or like-minded families in the community, or network in your circle of friends/coworkers/family. Pros: cost-effectiveness. Readily-available and fairly reliable. Allows your children to socialize with children of their own age. Cons: potential worries of the conditions in the swap house. Having difficulty addressing parenting styles/care/feeding expectations. Subsidy: these programs are generally not accessible for Child Care Subsidy.

  • Stay-At-Home Parent Care. One parent makes the decision to not return to work after the parental leave and take care of the child instead. Pricing: the cost of the care is usually calculated by loss of profit/benefits/work perks and potential promotions and networking. You can read more about the decision of staying at home to care for your child here.

As you can see, there are many options available for childcare. No matter what your current life goals are and what your current situation dictates, you will be able to find an option that will suit you. Should you realize that the option is not fulfilling all your needs, you could always switch to another one. To learn about all aspects of childcare, including subsidies, budgeting, emotional impact, check out our Preparing For the Care of Your Child Checklist.

Good luck finding the perfect childcare option for you!